Five-lane bridge planned at Old Beatty Ford Road I-85 exit
By Josh Bergeron
LANDIS — To minimize future costs and prepare for economic growth, contractors will build a five-lane bridge at the proposed interstate exit at Old Beatty Ford Road in southern Rowan County, according to state Department of Transportation plans.
Bridge construction will be in conjunction with a long-awaited widening project, a new Interstate 85 exit and relocation of Old Beatty Ford Road. Originally, the reconstructed bridge was slated to be two lanes with a turn lane. Local officials successfully lobbied for a wider bridge through in-person meetings and resolutions sent to the DOT.
When asked Wednesday, Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey confirmed that Old Beatty Ford Road would be built with four lanes and extra space to accommodate a fifth lane in the future.
“Those additional lanes are going to be needed,” Ivey said. “We can get it done cheaper now than it would be to widen the bridge at a later date.”
He said the bridge is being built with future growth in mind. For years, local leaders have seen an Old Beatty Ford Road exit as helping with southern Rowan’s economic development prospects. First responders say the exit would allow for easier access to I-85 during emergencies. There is currently a several-mile stretch of I-85 in southern Rowan without an exit.
County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said a number of county officials saw the original, two-lane bridge proposal when attending a community meeting last year and decided it wasn’t adequate.
“They asked for our input, and when we saw the drawings of the two lanes, we were unanimous in thinking, from an economic development standpoint, it would be limiting,” Edds said. “We thought, ‘Just do it now so it won’t limit our growth for the future.'”
In addition to in-person lobbying, the Rowan County commissioners and Rowan-Cabarrus Metropolitan Planning Organization passed resolutions supporting a five-lane bridge.
Commissioners haven’t settled on a definitive vision for what the area will look like. Public hearings and other meetings related to a county-owned water and sewer plant will help determine the future of Old Beatty Ford Road, Edds said. The possibilities, he said, include hundreds of houses and thousands of jobs in retail, office and industrial buildings.
“A two-lane road would just not serve that type of economic impact,” he said.
The economic transformation described by Edds would occur on a relocated Old Beatty Ford Road, north of the road’s current site. Old Beatty Ford now snakes through southern Rowan County, from Landis to the Gold Hill community. Relocation plans show the road cutting sharply east at its intersection with Bostian Road. From that intersection, the new road would shoot straight to Lentz Road east of I-85.
Landis Mayor Pro Tem Dorland Abernathy called the Old Beatty Ford Road exit “our Landis gateway to I-85.”
“Right now, the only interstate access to Landis is through China Grove or Kannapolis,” he said. “So any business that wants to come in thinks, ‘Why would we come here when we have access over there right next to the highway?’ We’re excited about it and ready for development to happen.”
Before significant development can occur, county leaders say water and sewer service needs to be extended into rural areas near I-85. Rowan County commissioners hope to extend water and sewer “trunk lines” to the east side of I-85 at the same time that widening occurs.
Ivey said DOT currently projects I-85 widening work to wrap up in spring 2019. Before that, contractors will build a bridge at the relocated Old Beatty Ford Road and demolish the existing bridge. The interstate exit will be built near the end of I-85 widening work, Ivey said.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
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